Heekin will work alongside the 78-year-old Ed Meyer, who will remain as the chief executive of Grey Global Group, the holding company acquired by WPP in March.
Meyer, who has run Grey since 1970, is expected to step down when his contract expires in 2006. By this time, insiders believe WPP's chief executive, Sir Martin Sorrell, will have moved Grey's media network MediaCom into Group M, leaving Grey as a strictly advertising concern.
According to Meyer: "Jim Heekin is a world-class leader on the global advertising stage and a giant in our industry. His arrival opens an exciting new chapter in the growth and development of Grey Worldwide."
Heekin is believed to have been in talks with Sorrell since March. Earlier this month, he vacated his position as the chairman and chief executive of the Havas-owned Euro RSCG network, after being overlooked for a senior position on the Havas board.
Heekin, a former chairman and chief executive of McCann Erickson Worldwide, was replaced at Euro RSCG by the head of the network's New York office, David Jones.
"The opportunity to lead Grey Worldwide is the high point of my professional career. I look forward to partnering with Ed Meyer and the accomplished people working across the network in 83 countries," Heekin said.
He added that the goal was to make Grey the global leader in talent; powerful branding ideas grounded in consumer understanding and superlative creativity and delivery in every channel for our clients.
"These have been, and will continue to be, the cornerstones of Grey's growth."
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